Ultimate Avengers
Volume 2 - Rise of the Black Panther

Starring (voice): Justin Gross, Grey DeLisle, Michael Massee and Olivia d'Abo
Lions Gate Home Entertainment
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 12
Available 19 March 2007

There are times when the constraints of tradition can mean the death of a way of life. When Wakanda, the small African nation state, whose peace is protected by the Black Panther, comes under sustained attack, from an alien incursion, the Black Panther must go against everything he has been taught and seek outside help. Gathering together some of the world's strongest super heroes the Black Panther must battle evil from within and without...

Ultimate Avengers 2 (2006) is an animated feature directed by Will Meugniot, Richard Sebast and Bob Richardson, all of whom have long and distinguished track records in producing animated shows and features. The film was nominated for a Golden Reel Award for best sound editing in a direct to video project.

Ultimate Avengers 2 is a sequel to the first film and has many of the triumphs and faults of that movie. The animation remains above average and generally is a good directional move for Marvel, though there is still some way to go to move the look of the shows completely away from that Saturday morning feeling. The voice acting remains solid, though the plot is noticeably thinner and character development remains a weak point in this second feature.

With so many characters to incorporate into seventy minutes, there has to be some casualties. Whereas the Hulk got a good outing in the first film, he is constricted very much to a supporting role in the sequel, so no great rampaging scenes for Hulk fans. The villains of the piece, the Chitauri and their leader Kleiser are unfortunately presented as two dimensional, a problem that is often found in many of Marvel's comics.

There are some nods towards a more adult audience, especially in the troubled marriage of the Pyms; Captain America's quest to find peace from painful memories by burying himself in work; and the Hulk being experimented on by his friends. The problem is that you can see the compromises that have had to be made in order not to isolate their younger audience. In the end you just get the feeling that there is a much darker film just waiting to burst out of this franchise.

Sound is 5.1 and there is very good use of the soundscape; you can see why it was nominated for an award. The 16:9 anamorphic picture is crystal clear and even blown up to 50ins still looks great. I can't really comment on the extras as they didn't come on the preview disc, but apparently you get a What Avenger Are You? DVD game, hopefully not the same one as appeared on the first disc and a Featurette. To round off the proposed extras is a gag reel and a first look at the forthcoming Dr Strange film and the Iron Man film, which I have seen and is very similar in tone to the two Avengers films.

Ultimately, this is a bit too much like a rerun of the first film with less dynamic sequences, so, a little less bang for your buck.

Charles Packer

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